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Flintshire County Council first Welsh local authority to roll out ‘Mockingbird Family Model’ to support foster families

Published: 14/05/2020
  • Flintshire Council awarded £1.15million innovation funding to roll-out Mockingbird to 50 families in North Wales
  • The Flintshire project has the potential to save £2.4 million over 6 years by avoiding costs for the Local Authority
  • Announcement marks Foster Care Fortnight 11-24 May 2020, The Fostering Network’s annual campaign to raise awareness of the power of fostering and celebrate the fostering community. 

A new way of delivering foster care is being rolled-out across the county of Flintshire, North Wales. Based on the Mockingbird Family Model - which creates an ‘extended family’ of support - the ‘Mockingbird programme’ for Flintshire will support 50 families. The first constellation was set up in February 2020 with another to follow by the end of the year.

The Mockingbird programme creates an ‘extended family’ - called a constellation - of 6-10 fostering families who are supported by an experienced foster carer. The programme is shown to improve the stability of fostering placements and strengthen relationships between carers, children and young people, fostering services and birth families. The extended family model enables sleepovers and short breaks, peer support, regular joint planning and training, and social activities between the families.

A UK pilot project showed that the Mockingbird programme, originated by The Mockingbird Society in America and developed by The Fostering Network in the UK, reduced placement breakdowns and moves which are costly to the Local Authority and have a detrimental effect on the child.

Five constellations are planned for Flintshire by the end of 2022, directly supporting up to 80 young people and 50 fostering households. By investing to save, the model is projected to make savings by avoiding high management costs incurred by external foster placements and by retaining a strong pool of local authority foster carers.

In 2017/2018, a budget of £7.8million was required to meet the needs of looked after children in Flintshire; 65 percent of this was spent on out of county placements for 15% of looked after children in Flintshire.

Flintshire Council has been provided interest-free loan funding of £1.15million from the Innovate to Save programme, funded by Welsh Government and run by Y Lab, a partnership between Nesta and Cardiff University. Innovate to Save aims to both stimulate innovation in public services and save money.

Flintshire County Council’s Chief Officer for Social Services, Neil Ayling, said:

“The funding from Innovate to Save allows Flintshire to invest in vital early help services for families in crisis, but also invest in a high standard of foster care to give children the best possible experience when they aren’t safely able to live at home.”

Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Social Services, Councillor Christine Jones, said:

“Relationships are so important for children, and these are at the heart of Mockingbird. This is about a community coming together as an extended family giving children friendships and a caring group of adults they can trust, while maintaining a natural relationship with siblings and family.”

Lily Stevens, Head of Mockingbird at The Fostering Network, the UK’s leading fostering charity, said:

“We’re delighted about the further investment by Welsh Government to support the long-term sustainability and growth of Mockingbird in Flintshire. Nationally, across the current 35 services in the programme, the picture shows that fostering families hugely benefit from the increased support a constellation can bring. We anticipate very similar findings in Flintshire and are excited at the prospect of further fostering services in Wales joining the programme.”